About 50,000 people died on Brazilian roads last year, down 10 per cent from 2012, according to police estimates published in local media.

A traffic police report obtained by the O Globo daily logged 8375 deaths or 23 per day and 103,075 injuries in 185,877 accidents on federal motorways alone in the Latin American giant.

But the report estimated that the total for the country of 200 million as a whole was likely nearer 50,000 when taking all classes of roads into account.

Brazil road repair

Applied Economic Research says Brazil needs to invest US$110 billion to improve its roads. Nearly 80% of that amount should be set aside for repairing, upgrading and widening roads nationwide, including the federal roads shown here in Valparaíso, about 37 miles from Brasília.

That would give Brazil a ratio of some 25 road deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to a European average of 10, according to a 2013 World Health Organisation report.

“The annual number of traffic deaths in Brazil is equal to the number of Americans who died in the Vietnam War,” University of Brasilia civil engineering professor Paulo Cesar Marques told O Globo.

Marques credited advertising campaigns and tougher punishments for road safety violations as measures helping traffic fatalities fall 10.1 per cent compared to 2012, but added Brazil still had much progress to make.

Brazil road repair

A pickup stuck in a muddy stretch of Brazil’s BR163 highway reflects the battle over the Amazon. Settlers want to tame the forest by paving and clearing much of it, while environmentalists and Indians fear the development can’t be sustained.

Brazil has adopted UN targets stipulating it should aim to halve traffic deaths and injuries by 2020.

The road deaths are similar to the number of homicides – 47,100 in 2012 – in one of the world’s most violent countries.

Police blame excess speed, reckless overtaking, drunken-driving and the poor state of repair of many highways for the vast majority of traffic accidents.